In the north of mainland Malaysia you have Kota Bahru on the east and the island of Penang on the west. We’ve seen a little bit of them before and as Kota Bahru abuts a very unstable border area with Thailand, we thought we’d head to Penang for our final few days in Malaysia.
Our clothes were still a bit wet from our trip into the highlands, but we knew that it would be warmer and drier by the coast. A day at 100km/h in asian heat could dry out a wet, woolly mammoth. Indeed it had just dried us out when, crack, the lightning rang out above us as we crossed the bridge to the island. Worse still was waiting outside the first guesthouse….there was no cover and no where for me to go to get out of the rain. Nickiy emerged from the guesthouse and gave it the thumbs down. A small roof overhang only half protected us for the following 60 minutes of proper monsoon rain. The bike was on its own but was happy modelling for Ortlieb!
Now we were wet again, we attempted to navigate the one-way systems of George Town using point-to-point compass bearings. The sky was dry but the roads were flooded. And apparently it was ok to nudge motorbikes out of the way with your car. Plus it was getting dark so my navigator was not enjoying her task in the face of no entry signs. Eventually we found the legendary Hotel Mingood which for some reason made me think of Hotel California.
However hard you try, sometimes you just can’t avoid relatives. They pop up everywhere, all over the globe. Given all the variables involved in our travels, it was a pleasant surprise to find cousin Michelle and her family spending a few weeks in the very same town as us. They had spent a few months in the Philippines and were now enjoying Malaysia for a few weeks. Once we got over the no phone/no doorbell situation, we caught up by their pool and enjoyed another fine roti for dinner.
Another good reason for hanging around George Town for a few days was to try and get a Thai tourist visa. Information was sketchy, but it seemed that if we turned up at the border in need of a visa, we would only get 15 days in the country. It would be pretty intense to travel the length of Thailand in that time. If we got a visa in advance, we should get 30 days, which would make our travels a little more sedate. So we filled in the forms, gave them some photos and our passports, and paid the money. The next day our tourist visa was stuck in our passport and they had given us 60 days, which could be extended to 90 if we needed! Whooopeeee! Now we just needed to get there.